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Bankrupt solar company Solyndra subpoenaed

Reuters

Failed solar panel maker Solyndra, which got nearly $535 million in taxpayer loans, was subpoenaed by a grand jury as part of a federal investigation, according to court documents filed by the Fremont company's lawyers.

Billing records submitted by San Francisco-based K&L Gates LLP, Solyndra’s special counsel, include legal work related to the subpoena. The records were filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware earlier this month. According to the law firm's 18 pages of billing records, which cover September 2011 to the end of November, the U.S. attorney's office, FBI and Department of Energy are all investigating Solyndra's bankruptcy.

The company's lawyers indicated that a grand jury subpoena was first handed down in November, according to the billing records, which showed attorneys spending more than five hours on a Nov. 18 conference call with the U.S. attorney's office “regarding response to grand jury subpoena.” The billing records, which show K&L Gates billed Solyndra nearly $150,000 for three months of work, also revealed that the FBI seized electronic documents as part of its investigation and that Solyndra's lawyers were called to the FBI's San Francisco bureau to “review documents.” The U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco declined to comment.

A grand jury investigation might mean company officials, who earlier this year declined to testify to Congress, citing their Fifth Amendment protections, could face indictment.

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy protection in August, after being the first clean energy company to receive a loan from the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program in March 2009. President Barack Obama spoke at Solyndra's factory in May 2010, saying, “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra.” The FBI raided Solyndra's facilities in September after the company closed its doors in August, laying off more than 1,100 workers.

House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee have accused the Obama administration of showing Solyndra favoritism in granting government loans, with recent revelations that the Department of Energy pressed Solyndra to hold off on layoffs until after the 2010 election. Solyndra's largest investor, George Kaiser, raised $50,000 for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

The White House has denied that Solyndra received any preferential treatment. The Kaiser Family Foundation said George Kaiser never brought up Solyndra with administration officials, even though he visited the White House more than a dozen times.

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